The ‘Golden Hour’ is that magical time when photographers come out, the first or last hour of sunlight in a day, when the sun’s position produces a soft and warm light with longer shadows.

Golden hour is all about the light. At noon, with the sun right above us, the natural sunlight is at its strongest and brightest – white light. During the golden hours of sunrise and sunset, the sun is far way and near the horizon. Light has to travel through more of the Earth’s atmosphere, acting as a diffuser that softens the intensity of direct light, shifting it towards the low-temperature yellow range of the spectrum. Shadows become longer and softer and the balance between darks and lights lessen, giving your shots depth and even exposure. The result is a soft, warm light that is pure gold for photographers.

Golden light shows up during golden hour, which is an hour after sunrise, and an hour before sunset. These aren’t exact times though, as golden hour shifts based on your location and with the Earth’s movement around the sun. Golden hour rarely lasts a full 60 minutes, so make sure to be prepared for your shoot and take full advantage – have your locations picked, models ready, and gear set up and ready to go.

READ MORE: Shooting in Cape Town? Our Top 10 Photo Locations in the City

To get a rough idea of how much time you have before the sun sets, hold your arm towards the sun and place your four fingers, held together horizontally, between the bottom of the sun and the horizon. Each finger represents approximately 15 minutes till sunset – so if four finger widths block the sky between the sun and the horizon, it’s roughly an hour till sunset.

The Golden Hour Calculator is a great online tool for working out the best times for photography wherever you are in the world.

Cape Town’s golden hour in summer happens for roughly 40 minutes at sunrise from 7:05/7:45 and at sunset from 17:05/17:55.

Golden hour is a great time for portraits and landscape photography. The soft light is forgiving on bodies and faces, and its warmth more flattering for skin tones. Your subjects also get the added benefit of being able to face the sun without squinting! The light also won’t be bouncing off them or the light colors they might be wearing. You won’t even need to use a flash – the natural light provides everything you need.

Landscapes also benefit from golden hour. The sky has more colour, especially when clouds can pick up some of the sun’s last rays. You also get the rare opportunity to place the sun into frame – something virtually impossible at any other time of day.

LEARN MORE: Discover pro techniques with DLPHOTO’s Outdoor Photography Workshop